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Preparations for Travel

As part of the Cleveland Humanities Festival, Literary Cleveland partnered with the CSU Poetry Center to create "Preparations for Travel," a crowdsourced video poem on the theme of identity.


Saturday, March 27, 2021, 7pm

As part of the Cleveland Humanities Festival, Literary Cleveland partnered with the CSU Poetry Center to create "Preparations for Travel," a crowdsourced video poem on the theme of identity. For this project, poet Kamden Hilliard, Anisfield-Wolf Fellow at the CSU Poetry Center, developed an original three-part poem using lines and phrases selected from writing submitted by more than 30 local poets. The final video version of the poem, read by local performers and laying recorded and archival images, premiered on Saturday, March 27, 2021. By combining unique individual voices together into a larger collective work, "Preparations for Travel" reveals Northeast Ohio's vibrant diversity of cultures and identities.

"Preparations for Travel" is a few things: community art in collaboration with Literary Cleveland and the Cleveland Humanities Festival; a thirty-something person-strong crowdsourced community poem edited by Kamden Hilliard; a video poem composed by Jon Conley, Zach Peckham, and Kamden; and a meditation on how identity mediates our ability to join, move, and travel. We take our direction from Russell Atkins' "Travel in Ohio," we take our inspiration from the writers, editors, readers, and people of Cleveland. Enjoy!

Preparations for Travel

after Russell Atkins' "Travel in Ohio"

Now Cleveland is a bend in the road you return to for its view
of the lake. A succession of grey stones we climb into a stubborn
mist. Our pitches, different at first, come into unison and our
sounds bounce off lung piercing air, distant sun. Mist escapes
from the frozen lake, until that mist congeals and breaks crystal,
as the sharp knives of winter sweep across the lake in ragged
shards, and counter currents shake loose many particles of water
and let them fall back to the hard earth as flakes of snow.

Love water in all states. Ice, fog, sleet. Appreciate the loveliness
of monochrome, the symphony of sepia against olive, the bass
line of umber and ochre trunks receding into the chiaroscuro mist
with shadows of bruised violet. Walk in a world that doesn't need
you. Where everything is happening without you. You will be able
to breathe again. Inside, we sweep out


We adorn our home with paper lanterns
for light and luck, to find our way.
We post poetry around the doors
matte black strokes on glossy red paper.  

In 2020, our introvert cards got a workout. TV

in quarantine. Pandemic Baking. Pound, Bundt,

Sponge. Time tells, and in the blink of a lockdown

it was still endless months of sweatpants and

dread; the glassy darkness below. Life went on  

hold (March 2020) and for a while we thought

"Isn't this cool?" "Yes, this is cool." When we

step off the escalator into our ideal cosmos with

our charmingfamily/zenmind/fitbody/justworld

-brilliantcareer/ and, finally, get to rest. Life is

notched up and held captive in frames of firsts

enveloped into slots of blue metal. Is it wicked to

find something about this sad freedom to enjoy?

Share with the world and feel hearts beating against

the soft gunshot of dead branches. Trip concrete

curb skidding muddily down the ravine. To get there,

there, where we say, Yes, this is the right place,

and—strange how this remembrance lands like

a flock of birds—or Dandelions:

the golden specs, the seeds erect, brave enough

to exist. Brave enough to return, lost in the tale

of our menace. With a spirit that traverses the winds

to run with the weeds, Dandelions, rejected.

Unwanted in the color and in the face. But,

Love's achievable, isn't it? Make up new worlds.

Make feeling special. Refuse to believe we will

never embrace one another—we will never

roam the Earth again.

A new moon is coming. You need to have

suffered a loss that ripped something away.

After that, what you're searching for is a name

you recognize. All that past built up like plaque

on your limbic system.  

By the lawns and pale swaying past a water
tower scabbed with rust glowing orange

The long expanse falls up flakes and flecks
float down in diagonal slants from dove grey

skies. Later, three loofas dangled from a woman's
car antenna, like three clusters of hydrangeas:

purple, pink, red, and it was hard to decide if
it was beautiful or silly. Same as the traffic

signals, lines of orange barrels, scraps of rusted
sheet metal, bobbing along toxic waters,

unseen bids in the trees near the swampy
swamp whose grammarless chatter is mimicked

easily. Another day hoping to make mystery,
family, to live among weather and uncertainty,

and move through it as a bee, tunneling toward

Poem contributors: Russell Atkins, Bonnie Brewer-Kraus, Lisa Chiu, Rosemarie Fairman, David Lee Garrison, Nina Gibans, Darlene Glass, Kamden Hilliard, Barbara Howell, Karen Ireland-Phillips, Christen Lee, Dorothy Levine, Cora McCann Liderbach, Nicole Lighthouse, Ray McNiece, Jill Nosse, Tanya Pilumeli, Mimi Plevin-Foust, Kelly Boyer Sagert, Adrian Schnall, Matthew Schultz, Jennifer Shneiderman,  Aumaine Rose Smith, Marina Vladova, D.L. Ware, Elizabeth Wize, John Wolf, Elisha Yin, James Zaferopolos

Poem editor: Kamden Hilliard

Video performers: Rachel Drotar, Julia Fisher, Kamden Hilliard, Gordon Hinchen, CorLesia Smith

Video editors: Jonathan Conley, Zachary Peckham

Special thanks: Jeff Karem, Ruth Lang, Caryl Pagel, Hilary Plum, Matt Weinkam

"Preparations for Travel" is a collaboration between Literary Cleveland and the Cleveland State University Poetry Center as part of the 2021 Cleveland Humanities Festival. This project is made possible through the generous support of the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities.

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